Why is the soil in Oregon so special – and how are the best Oregon wines influenced by this exquisite dirt? The famous Willamette area has been both a seabed and a massive lava flow. As the Missoula floods washed Oregon down, complex soils were revealed. It makes for remarkable growing conditions – and some of the best pinot wine in the world.
Soil influences how grapes grow and what characteristics they take on. The reddish Jory soil features volcanic elements. It’s high in nutrients, clay, and iron. These soils are excellent dry farming because the soil itself retains so much moisture. This is the go-to soil for growing Oregon pinot wine. Jory gives pinot wines rich cherry and red fruit flavors. These present dynamically with a high acidity and silky tannins that make Oregon pinot perfect for pairing.
Next are the marine soils, also called Willakenzie. These are very old soils that retain many qualities from when Oregon was a shallow seabed. Oregon’s mountain ranges were formed when tectonic plates ground into each other and pushed the land up over millions of years. This left Willakenzie soil with loam and sandstone.
If you realize that makes for poor soil, you’d be correct. The advantage here is built over years and years. Vines that are well cared for eventually form very deep roots to seek out nutrients and moisture. These vines provide unique flavors to the wine. Flavors like blackberry and black cherry abound. These wines offer require a bit more aging for a perfectly balanced profile.
Finally, Loess dirt is an extremely soft loam that’s blown in by the wind. It’s often blown out, too, but over centuries it’s formed a good amount of farmable land. This soil needs to be tended very carefully – it erodes with ease. It’s difficult to plant in Loess dirt, but when you can, the reward for all that hard work is worth it. Pinot wine from Loess soil balances three characteristics: red fruit, white pepper, and earthiness. These wines are an achievement of patience and expertise for any vineyard, and they make for a delectable pinot noir that’s unlike any other.
The best Oregon wines have these three soils to thank. They’re a stunning result of the Willamette Valley’s microclimate combined with millions of years of the earth’s geological movement. In many ways, the exposure of these soils in this climate is unique to this era in the planet’s history. Our palates are very thankful for that.